A Discussion with Islandjane EcoTours – Day Tour Operator – Hawaii, USA

Welcome to the Industry Insider blog series.  The Industry Insider aims to highlight common challenges across the tourism industry.  From sales to reservations to accounting to operations, we all strive to operate efficiently and profitably. At the core of TourConnect is a passion for uniting the industry around the solutions to these challenges.

image1Today, we look at a closer look at Islandjane EcoTours, a day tour operator that specializes in custom designed adventures and explorations,  celebrating the sustainability and natural wonders of Hawaii.  We spoke with Mrs. Jane Howard, Islandjane’s owner, to learn about the challenges they face in the tourism industry today.

For starters, can you please explain Islandjane EcoTours’ background and the types of services that you provide?

Islandjane EcoTours was the brainchild of Jane Howard, who relocated to Hawaii in 2011, where she is building her sustainable living Jungalo and Jungle Lodge.  Islandjane EcoTours, an owner operated company, offers eco adventure concierge services to in-bound travelers to Hawaii. Islandjane offers complimentary travel planning services with a focus on getting visitors in touch with the hidden natural and cultural experiences that the wild side of Hawaii offers.

What makes Islandjane EcoTours different from your competitors?

Islandjane EcoTours is different from its competitors because it provides complimentary and extremely personal-touch travel planning services.  Rather than booking tours, Islandjane EcoTours custom matches experiences to the levels, interests and dreams of its clients.

How does Islandjane EcoTours distribute their products/how do your customers make bookings?

40% of bookings come from personal contacts and association networks, with 50% bookings coming direct from Adventure Tour Companies. 10 % bookings come from individual requests via internet.

Do you use static annual rates, dynamic pricing, or a mix of both? Why does Islandjane EcoTours use this method?

Islandjane operates from commission-based sales, and from direct sales of 7&10 day Eco Adventure packages.  Islandjane also consults with other agencies, adding 20% to base fee of packages.

How do you keep your current business partners engaged in Islandjane EcoTours? How do you communicate with them and how frequently?

Islandjane hosts bi-monthly events for industry partners.  Operators take turns hosting and showcasing their services, ie., boat trips, new beach bar, etc.

What advice do you have for new day tour suppliers/what are some of the “best practices” that Islandjane EcoTours uses?

I believe it is critical to keep exploring, connecting and collaborating.  I have seen a high turn-over in personnel and it is important to keep fresh and visible.  Periodically, we host gatherings, send personal notes, post on Facebook, and update our website…hence, we earned the nickname Aloha Ambassadors.

What are the most tedious administration issues that you face? What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most tedious and challenging part of this job is to accept that you will see only a fraction of the work that you put into building itineraries actually manifest in a trip coming to fruition.  There are a lot of “tire kicker’s” out there.  We promote, “dream it and we build it”…there are a lot of dreamers who do not call back.

What types of B2B marketing does Islandjane EcoTours use? (i.e. trade shows, social media, physical mailers, email campaigns, etc.)

Marketing is done exclusively through word-of-mouth, association networks, through Facebook, and our website.

What do the next 5 years look like for Islandjane EcoTours? What would you like to see happen/what would you like to focus on?

In the next 5 years, we hope to Increase networks and sales, promote happiness levels, create eco-adventure swaps (trading Hawaii eco adventures for eco-adventures elsewhere), and deepen community and cultural ties by providing richer experiences. For example: Farm to table crafting workshops with soap, tea and coffee harvest, chocolate farms, bees and honey, etc.

I would like to focus on continuing to build partnerships, and develop eco-experiences with a deeper understanding and purpose. Islandjane has taken a lead on recycling efforts and desires to incorporate green learning experiences into travel planning.

We also plan to maintain and grow our excellent reputation. We were awarded 1st Place in Recycle Bowl, a National Keep America Beautiful competition in 2014 and were also awarded Outside Magazine’s Eco-Travel Award for 2014.

How can TourConnect help Islandjane EcoTours? What do you hope to achieve from using TourConnect/why did you decide to sign up with TourConnect?

TourConnect may help Islandjane EcoTours expand networks and build relationships with tour operators across the planet. I hope to promote arrangements with agents that will book clients to experience and learn about the wild side of Hawaii.


The TourConnect Take
Below, we break down the interview to share relevant experiences, analysis, ideas, and thought provoking questions with the industry.


 

Islandjane EcoTours is offering fully customized itineraries, which take a lot of time and effort to produce, and seeing customers then disappear after receiving the itinerary.  This is not only a drain on time and resources for any company, but it is also demoralizing for a team.  A few weeks ago, we talked about pricing customized itineraries in the Industry Insider with H2A Travels. There is a key difference between H2A Travels and Islandjane.  H2Awas having troubles with pricing a customized tour so that they could sell them to other business for resale, and Islandjane struggles with the fact that they are offering customized itineraries to people that are not guaranteed to actually make a booking.

One suggestion that we have for Islandjane EcoTours is based off of a model that is used in other companies that I have spoken with in the past. It is a multi-step process that works like this:

  1. Start with a “planning questionnaire”– Whenever a potential customer approached Islandjane, the first thing they could do is to send the client a “planning questionnaire” to gauge their interest in various activities that they could do while in Hawaii. This questionnaire should be thorough enough to really hone in on what the client’s likes and dislikes are so that the best trip possible can be planned for them. This questionnaire is not intended to replace a personal phone call.  The other purpose for this questionnaire is to get the potential client engaged in the process by spending enough time filling out the questions that they feel invested in the trip (and the itinerary).
  2. Require a “planning fee”- This fee would be non-refundable and should be an amount that is small enough to not upset the potential client but large enough to get them financially invested in the idea of actually booking the trip. Islandjane could require this fee to be submitted when the questionnaire is returned and will be applied to the total cost of the trip if they decide to actually book the trip. If the potential client decides not to book the trip, Islandjane would keep the fee as payment for their time in creating a customized itinerary.
  3. Follow up the questionnaire with a pre-scheduled call– This call should be scheduled either before the questionnaire is sent to the prospect or when the questionnaire is returned with the “planning fee”. The purpose for the call is to not only clarify any confusing answers within the questionnaire but also to get the prospect excited about going on a Hawaiian adventure. Again, adding to their investment in the trip-planning process.
  4. Formal Itinerary or Booking Quote– After all the previous steps have been completed, the prospect should be anxiously awaiting the fully customized itinerary that Islandjane has put together for them. When this is sent, it should include exactly what the prospect will be doing on their adventure with all of the inclusions and total costs associated so that they can clearly see what they can expect to pay. This itinerary should also give enough description about each activity (maybe even include some pictures) to make it very difficult for the prospect to not be super excited about making the booking.

This is one of the models being used to plan fully customized tour packages and it lends itself to a fishing analogy often used in sales. The idea behind it is that if you are offering free planning for anyone, you will absolutely get lots of “bites on your bait”. However, by offering free planning, there is no investment on the prospect’s part which leaves them free to “shop around” to see what other people have to offer as well.

If Islandjane were to adopt this method, they may see fewer “bites on their bait”, but they should see an increase in the number of “fish they land in the boat”. Also, if the “fish” decides not to stay on the hook and make the booking, Islandjane has at least been compensated for their time spent on creating the itinerary.

Have you had had similar challenges?  How have tried to address the issue of creating lots of itineraries that never get booked?  Comment below if you have good ideas for Jane and other similar companies.

TourConnect would like to thank Jane at Islandjane EcoTours very much for taking the time to share their experiences and challenges!

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We look forward to sharing more of these insightful interviews with our ongoing series, Industry Insider.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on all of our blog posts and system releases!

Andrew Coulter

Author Andrew Coulter

Andrew brings limitless energy and an appreciation for quality relationships to business development. He delivers results while identifying new ways to help his clients every day. Surprisingly, Andrew speaks more German than all three of the German-named Herrmann’s combined!

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